Okay, I'm going to stress this one again, because we live in a culture where the "anything goes" mentality pervades even the most intimate acts -- namely sex as it is meant to be, between one man and one woman within the bonds of marriage. Teenagers and other single young men and women (and everybody else, of course!) are bombarded with images on the internet, in movies, on television, and even in books (Fifty Shades of Gray, anyone??). And according to our culture, that is okay. You're allowed to do whatever you want, as long as it feels good. Never mind that it's going to hurt you and many other people in the long run. That's what the world doesn't tell you. God created sex within one context only for so many reasons. Read Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs, whichever your edition of the Bible calls it). Such a beautiful book and it praises marriage in a beautiful and poetical way.
So, boundaries are important. We need boundaries, rules, and guidelines in all areas of our life, and obviously sex is no different. Just because the world says it's okay to sleep with your bf/gf when you're 15 does not mean it is. In fact, I've found that usually if the world says something is okay, it most certainly is not. All that being said, I also know that things happen no matter how hard we try to stay pure within a relationship. I said that in the previous post, and it really stems from the fact that we are all sinners. Forgiveness is as equally important as boundaries.
That being said, hold hands with your bf/gf. Hug them. Kiss them if you feel comfortable with that. Even cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. But remember your boundaries. Ladies, guys have a much harder time with this than we do. It's important to remind your boyfriend that you have set boundaries. For the most part, he will be glad you called it to his attention. My husband has told me many times that guys have a tendency to think about one thing at a time (also known as having a one-track mind, haha), and sometimes, sexual desire takes over and it's extremely hard to come back down to earth, so to speak. There's a time and a place for those feelings, and it's after the wedding day. But don't be afraid to get a little close to each other. Just please keep your clothes on!!!! Again, things happen, no matter the boundaries you have set.
I probably should have put this section before the previous one, but oh well. Also note that I am specifically targeting Christians in these posts, so if anyone outside of my Facebook friends reads this, just know that. (Though all of this ought to apply to everyone...) So, here's the scenario:
You share the faith of your parents. You were raised in one denomination of Christianity for your whole life, and you know that you will be staying a member of that denomination. Now you've entered your teenage years and there just doesn't seem to be anyone at your church that you would willingly date. Oh, they are your good friends, of course, but that's all. Or maybe your church is so small you're basically a class of one in your age group most of the time. So you look to your friends outside of church. None of them are the same denomination as you are, but hey, they're Christian, right?
So there's this guy/girl that you begin to like as a little more than a friend. Maybe you even decide to confess your feelings to him/her. And guess what, he/she likes you, too! -gasp- This is wonderful! You go on a few dates, and try to spend time alone at gatherings of friends. People start to call you a couple. Eventually, you are. Then, the serious talk starts.
Do you want to see yourselves married to each other in however many years? You think the answer is yes. So you begin to talk very seriously. Eventually, the talk comes back around to church. You and your bf/gf would love to attend church together as husband and wife. That's how you each grew up and it's kind of a requirement in your minds. You attend church together, maybe alternating Sundays a few times. You soon come to the realization that his/her church is very different from yours, even differing on some main points in the Bible, not to mention worship styles. You try to talk it over with him/her, but he/she isn't quite sure he/she understands what is so important about your church. But you are not going to budge, and he/she won't either.
Eventually, you break up over theological differences. This is important. You were not willing to compromise your beliefs, and neither was your significant other. Granted, you were both Christian, but with the wide variety of Christian denominations around today, this kind of thing will happen. But you know what? You stayed strong in your faith, and hopefully your bf/gf learned something about his/her own faith as well.
So that was very long. And hopefully ambiguous enough that it could apply to just about anyone, even though I experienced this a couple of times. Personal side note, here: I have grown up Lutheran, and that is different from any other denomination that I have ever been exposed to (other than Catholic, but they are in a league all their own), and because my church was so small, and few other Lutherans homeschooled, I had a hard time. And when I did date a Lutheran while I was a teenager, I realized that he did not know how to live out his faith whatsoever, and I definitely lay the blame on his parents. (If you really MUST know any of the personal details, please message me privately on Facebook...)
No matter what denomination you are, I want you to examine your beliefs and the doctrine (if any...) that your denomination holds and know who you are in Christ before you start thinking seriously about dating and marriage. I know families where the parents attend different churches and I have a difficult time believing their children have a strong faith background. Obviously, I don't know their hearts and souls, but still. On the other hand, if you are a "church-jumper" then you really need to take a look at what you believe. It is super hard to defend your faith if you have heard conflicting things every other year. (By "church-jumper" I mean people that attend, say, a Pentecostal church for a year, then decide they are going to attend a Bible church, and then a Baptist church, and then a home church, and then...you get the idea. It's never Lutheran or Catholic, though, that's something I've noticed....I guess people don't like being told they are sinners anymore...) Being secure in Christ and a solid interpretation of the Bible will help you in all areas of life.
EDIT: Make sure you agree politically, as well, because in today's politically polarized world, it'll be nearly impossible to agree on anything ever.
Dress (or Modesty 101)
This is a difficult topic for some, but I see too many young girls (and young men, for that matter) dressing in inappropriate ways to not address it in terms of relationships. Again, I will stress that we are all sinners, no one is perfect, and this is even evident in the ways we as Christian people choose to dress. Yes, there are ways that a Christian should not dress. I know that may seem strange to some people.
Now, I'm not touting the idea that all girls need to wear long skirts and high-necked shirts and braids in their hair and boring shoes all the time. If you like dressing that way, go ahead! But don't use it as a biblical standard and look down on girls that do wear jeans and t-shirts and bright purple Chuck Taylors and maybe even dye their hair a funky color. Fashion can totally be fun, and those who know me know that I love my Chucks, bright red hair, and geeky t-shirts.
Things that Christian young women should not wear are short shorts that are almost up their rear ends (I've even seen this in church, and I was appalled!!!), dresses that barely cover the already mentioned rear ends, and super low-cut shirts. I suppose I should add that push-up bras aren't necessarily the best thing to be wearing, either, because they explicitly bring attention to your chest and that's not a good idea. Really, just use discretion when you are shopping. I've also heard that asking your father or brother (if he's of the correct age) if something is appropriate is a good idea, too. But discretion is key. If you realize you're choosing something to get looks from the boys, then maybe you should think again.
Also, wear clothing that is actually the correct size!!!!!! This is something I cannot stress enough! Whether you are a size 6 or a size 14 or whatever, please, please, please wear clothing that fits!! I know the fashion magazines show everyone as a size -14 (seriously...that's not even size zero...), but those same magazines have some pretty wacky and stupid ideas about fashion and life in general. Too many young girls (Christian and non-Christian alike) use those magazines as their Bibles and oh the effects of this are just awful. We are all created in the image of God, and that means each and every one of you, girls and ladies, is beautiful. If you feel you are overweight or underweight, do something about it. At the very least, try. Modesty isn't only clothing; it's how you carry yourself, and take care of your body as a whole.
So...young men...yes, you. Obviously it's a whole different ball game when it comes to your clothes, but I still have a few pointers that maybe you ought to think about following if you don't already.
I'll just list them for you.
- Like the girls, wear clothing that fits. Stop wearing shirts and pants that are three sizes too big for you. It looks sloppy and immature.
- WEAR A BELT. I don't care what your boxers have on them, nobody wants to see that.
- Stop wearing t-shirts with offensive images or language on them. I know that's the norm now, but I do not have a very high opinion of any young man I see wearing a t-shirt that shows the finger or says something offensive. Bad language is never attractive. (Same goes for you, ladies.)
- Dress up once in a while! Wearing something nicer than jeans to church is always appropriate, but you could always wear a button down shirt with a pair of nice jeans for a family gathering, or even to a coffeehouse with your date. Women like sharp-dressed men. Seriously!
So this section got away from me a bit, but all of this does still apply to relationships. Ladies, it's hard for a young man to think pure thoughts about a young woman who is wearing short shorts and a low-cut tank top. You may say, oh they shouldn't be looking, but guys are hardwired to desire us, okay? So we should help them not fall prey to sexual sin and dress accordingly. Also, guys, ladies really do appreciate it when you go the extra mile and dress up for her.
Personality (or People Just Don't Change)
A good friend suggested I mention the fact that people don't change easily. If you are in a relationship and your bf/gf has some qualities or habits that you don't like, or are outright wrong, do not expect him/her to change once you are married. It doesn't work that way. The older people get, the more they are set in their ways, whether good or bad. God can and does change people, but you shouldn't simply expect it to happen. The sad truth is that it usually doesn't. Again, breakups are never easy. If a breakup is easy for you, then maybe you didn't care as much about that person as you thought you did. At any rate, it's better to have a broken heart for a time than to create a rift in a marriage fifteen years down the road. Not that broken marriages are always avoidable. People are inherently sinful. (How many times have I said that now???) But please realize that it's a lot simpler to break up with someone while you are young and not married than to go through a divorce when you have children. A couple of guys I dated had habits and qualities that I was unsure about, and thankfully God helped me to overcome the fear of getting hurt/hurting them.
Sorry, that got super long...gosh. I suppose by now it is painfully obvious that I feel very strongly about things like this. I hope I covered everything, though I know I couldn't possibly have done so. If you would like to further discuss these two posts or just an aspect of them, please message me on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will gladly talk to you.
Also, I know that the only Bible verses I even mentioned were from Song of Solomon. The Bible is FULL of verses to help young men and women along the path of life. I didn't post any specific verses because I know that each of you who reads this will probably think of different verses that apply to each section. :)